Previously, larger goods were measured by hand or went unmeasured because of an inability to measure these items accurately and quickly, he adds. But now several weighing manufacturers offer automated dimensioning and weighing systems and tools to make it easy to quickly calculate dimensional weight for parcels, packages and pallets of all shapes and sizes.
Whether it’s in a retail workstation, office, or shipping and manufacturing environment, capturing accurate package dimensions is important to ensure compliance with dimensional weight pricing policies and avoid fines from carriers. To improve the collection and management of dimensional data, dimension and weighing systems from companies such as Rice Lake Weighing Systems, CubiScan, Walz Scales and Mettler-Toledo can help.
Multiple Dimensioning and Weighing System Solutions
The main uses for weighing and dimensioning systems are for gathering length, width and height for an object, notes Jason Wiley, retail marketing manager for Mettler-Toledo, LLC, based in Columbus, Ohio.
“Primarily, these systems are often used for revenue recovery, load planning, box sizing, baggage handling, and maintaining a database of product sizes,” he says. “It also can be used for applications such as side-by-side detection on sorting applications, and skew and angle applications for robotic pickers.”
“By using a dimensioning and weighing system in a warehouse, dimensional weight information can be processed on stored items to make more efficient decisions in running that warehouse such as where to store the items and how to select orders into smaller sized boxes to save on corrugate spend and shipping costs,” says Randy Neilson, director of sales and marketing for Farmington, Utah-based CubiScan.
Dimensioning and weighing systems can also be found in the transportation industry to measure items being shipped so that the carrier can apply an appropriate shipping charge based on the item’s size and weight.
“The customer can declare the appropriate sizes to their carriers so they don’t get hit with unexpected back charges or freight charges because they had the wrong dimensional information or didn’t initially declare dimensional information,” Neilson explains. “A dimensioning and weighing system can be a revenue-generating tool for carriers measuring freight to recapture revenue that they otherwise wouldn’t get if they hadn’t measured that box and charged by dimensional weight.”
There are several dimensioning and weighing systems solutions most often used in a variety of operational environments—small parcel dimensions systems, pallet/large freight dimensioning systems, in-motion dimensioning systems, and volumetric vehicle scanning technology.
Small parcel dimensioning systems are typically used for shipping and receiving applications. Shippers need to know what to charge their customers at the time of shipment in order to avoid dimensional charges and other surcharges that occur afterwards, according to Nate Walz, vice president of Big Ideas at Walz Scales, headquartered in East Peoria, Ill.
“Companies spend countless hours reconciling these extra charges, and they cannot be recouped from the customer,” he explains. “By integrating the Static Package System, or SPS, into their transportation management system they can avoid these challenges.”
“By knowing individual dimensions, the WMS can predict what box to choose for shipping, and what carrier and service to use based on the entire order that is placed,” says Walz.
Pallet/large freight dimensioning systems are becoming more common in the LTL and TL freight industry. Walz says his company’s systems can determine weight and dimensions in as short as two seconds. “These systems help shippers, carriers, freight brokers, and 3PL providers simplify the freight transportation process.”
In-motion dimensioning systems are often used for shipping and fulfillment applications. When speeds and volumes increase, companies need a more automated solution compared to the SPS.
“Our in-motion systems offer high speed solutions, accuracy, and the ability to integrate check weighers, barcode scanners, print and apply, vision systems, sortation and robotics,” says Walz.
“It takes time to measure a package. By using 3D imaging technology to calculate the dimensions, we can provide dimensioning data in just 0.2 seconds,” says Senneff. “The dimensions and weight can be displayed along with capturing an image and bar code. Installation and setup are quite simple and it comes with all of the tools necessary to assemble it.”
The low resolution image produced by this particular system helps in quality inspection as well as verification for how the package left the facility, adds Senneff.
Finally, volumetric vehicle scanning technology is used to determine the carried load volumes in open top trucks and trailers. These systems have been used to determine the volume and weight of trucks in the construction, mulch, biomass and aggregate materials industries.
“Compared to conventional methods the scanning technology is faster, more accurate, and portable increasing customer ROI for those industries that are concerned with volume,” explains Walz. “We starting to see the technology used in more applications like real time stockpile analysis.”
There are several things to look for when purchasing a dimensioning weighing system.
“Buyers should have a good understanding of their specific application’s requirements,” says Wiley. “However, the need for accuracy, speed, repeatability, reliability and NTEP certification are all important things to consider when it comes to making a dimensioning purchase decision.”
If your application is for billing purposes, Wiley says it should be NTEP Certified. Even when used in non-legal for trade applications, having a product with NTEP approval gives the customer confidence the product will perform well and provide repeatedly accurate measurements.
Neilson says to also keep in mind that there is not a device that is a one-size-fits-all. “Think of the 80-20 rule. Choose a device that can measure 80 percent or more of your items and understand you might have to hand measure 10 to 20 percent of your freight.” Continued on page 14
“Consider the minimum and maximum sizes you are trying to measure,” adds Neilson. “There are small static dimensioning systems that measure 2 x 2 x 3 feet as a maximum, some that measure 40 x 48 x 39 inches, and even smaller dimensioning systems that may measure 12 x 12 x 18 inches capacity. Then there are pallet dimensioning systems.”
Walz warns against Internet knock-offs and inferior systems being sold by vendors.
“Deal with a company that has a long track record of performance and customer service. There will be a time when the customer will need to talk to a knowledgeable support person,” says Walz. “Also, always ask about customer support hours. Can you receive parts overnight in the states if required?”
For Neilson, another key to dimensioning and weighing systems is the software interface. “Would that company’s software ensure your data is accurately placed in the proper locations in your master data files or is it pushing data directly to the cube and weight fields in your current shipping software system,” he says.
As a result of the dimensioning rule changes, Neilson sees growth in the shipping sector and transportation. Customers who are shipping many parcels or packages are feeling the impact of the change that occurred to dimensioning and weighing.
“They did not have to measure everything that went out the door; now they are discovering they have to,” he says. “It’s charged, dimensioned and measured, and the tariffs are calculated similar to how air freight is transported. Big carriers are measuring the length, width, and height, while also weighing items that have been calculated in dimensional weight—even on ground freight. This has created a need for the shipper to measure and weigh all of their outbound shipment.”
Some of that growth has filtered into the warehousing and distribution side, says Neilson. “If you’re being charged by the size of the freight you are shipping, then the key to avoiding the increased freight charges is to package in smaller boxes and to weigh your orders into smaller packaging.”
One way to do this is to understand and know all of the dimensions and weight of the items going in the orders so you can select a better sized box. You can also integrate a system with on-demand box-making machines that can cut or generate a right size box for a particular order at the time of packaging.
From a scale industry standpoint, Senneff acknowledges the changes will certainly help scale dealers.
“It’s an exciting time for the scale dealer network. Historically, scale dealers have not been as active in the shipping room because most of the larger companies that ship products outsource software for complete shipping solutions and those software programs also include scales that interface to it,” he says. “There are not many regulations that have forced the purchase of new equipment. This is one of those regulations that scale dealers can take advantage of. You can offer a dimensioning solution to customers if they are getting billed back from the carriers who either forgot to dimension a product or had incorrect dimensioning information on parcels.”
Finally, Neilson predicts growth in the area of receiving and distribution because shippers who are packaging in smaller size boxes are spending less on corrugate and less on void-fill materials. That is addition to the savings on the freight—shipping less air and less packaging materials which means lower shipping costs.
“The change that the carriers have made to dimensioning all freight has created a demand for dimensional information,” says Neilson. “This occurs in both the receiving side for warehousing and distribution and taking orders to the outbound side where you have to measure and weigh the items to declare correct dimensional information to your carrier.”
Daniel Casciato is a well versed freelance writer and a social media marketing consultant from Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, visit www.danielcasciato.com or you may also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.